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Point guard adjusts to new role with Missouri women's basketball team

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 | 9:48 p.m. CST; updated 10:38 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 5, 2012
MU sophomore Kyley Simmons takes a pass during a drill at the Missouri women's basketball team's practice at Mizzou Arena on Oct. 29.

COLUMBIA — A whistle echoes through Mizzou Arena, and black jerseys disperse across the court. Kyley Simmons locks her eyes on the open hardwood floor.

Her sneakers squeak when her legs extend in a burst of speed, carrying her into flailing arms and shuffling feet.

Thursday's game

Missouri (6-1)
vs. Missouri State (5-2)

WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE:
Mizzou Arena



But Simmons is stopped mid-stride when she collides with 6-foot-1 freshman Darian Saunders.

“L5,” Simmons screams the play her squad is trying to run.

Saunders grunts in frustration. Simmons places her hands on Saunders' back to push her into the correct spot.

“I’ve been a point guard my whole life,” said Simmons, a sophomore on the Missouri women's basketball team. "I’ve played with other point guards, but I’ve always been at the one."

This season, she has been placed at the No. 2  position. As she adjusts to her new role as shooting guard, her point guard mentality still emerges.

Coach Robin Pingeton clutches her knees while crouching low. Her eyes rapidly shift as they analyze each player during Wednesday's scrimmage. She watches everything from her players' feet placement to their hands as the ball leaves their fingertips. With the whistle hanging from Pingeton’s lips, she blows the play dead.

“We’re doing this again,” Simmons announces. Her teammates jog back to their respective positions.

Last season, Simmons averaged 36 minutes a game and was the only Tiger to start every one. This year, she averages 26 minutes and has started five of Missouri’s eight games. She is splitting time with a new teammate who coaches hope develops leadership ability.

Freshman Lianna Doty takes her spot center court with the ball.

“Being point guard — it's like being quarterback,” Doty said. “You have to be an extension of your coach out there.”

“L5,” Simmons calls out the play again, and teammates respond by running their designated routes.

When the ball sails into Simmons' hands, she strains her neck searching for an open black jersey.

"Sometimes I'm open, and I just don't see it," Simmons said. "I'm definitely a pass-first player."

Last game, Simmons took six shots and totaled nine points. She had only taken 16 in the previous seven games combined.

"Coach P has definitely been on me about taking more shots," Simmons said.

With her opponent threatening to steal the ball, Simmons' gaze finds the basket. Then, with a decisive step backward, she takes the shot from behind the 3-point arc.

"Playing the two is way different than playing the one," Simmons said. "It’s just an adjustment that everybody’s going to have to make."

Players extend their arms and bend their knees in preparation for the rebound. They relax when the ball falls through the net.

"It’s going to be a good one, though," Simmons said. "Gonna be fun."

Pingeton stands upright and lets the whistle drop from her mouth. Replacing the whistle is a smile.

"Nice shot, Kyley," she says.


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